Choosing an internet provider
It’s a thorny problem, deciding how to connect to the internet on the road — so many different choices, plans and options; so many unfamiliar concepts. Here’s a ‘simple’ guide.
Step 1: Assessing your needs
How much data do you use in a month?
Will this change if you are on the road rather than at home?
On the road you might use internet data to watch films, videos, tv. Standard definition might use 1g of data every hour; super high definition could be as high as 15g per hour.
Does your data-use vary much from month to month?
Some plans are unlimited but they might slow down if you have used a lot of data. Others are limited but you might be able to buy extra data in months when you need it.
Does the internet speed matter to you?
If you download things like movies and TV to watch later, speed is less of an issue. If watching things live matters to you, then speed does matter.
Whereabouts are you going to travel?
There is variation in coverage for the internet. There are areas with no coverage at all. If your travels keep you pretty much near towns or cities you have more choices than if they take you into the wilds.
How important is it to have internet access all the time?
There might be some places in NZ you can’t go if you need the internet all the time. You can add aerials to extend your coverage, but you need the sort that you set up outside your vehicle, in just the right spot to catch a signal, to make a significant difference in internet coverage.
Does your vehicle pose any limitations on phone signals?
If you need an aerial to sit outside your vehicle (usually the roof) to get a signal, this will determine the kind of device you use to connect to the internet as not all devices have a fitting for an aerial (mobile phones, for instance).
Mobile phone, modem or satellite for the internet?
You might want to wait until you have looked at the plans to make up your mind on this, but it worth thinking about the practicalities in advance. Here is a video about using a satellite connection: ckw.nz/satellite.
Hardware and its installation
You can use your mobile phone to access the internet, or you can use a modem. Integrating a modem into an rv’s 12v electrical system requires a voltage smoother (and someone to install it). You might need an aerial on the roof (that’s another hole in your roof and someone to install it) to capture the signal outside the box of the vehicle; or a freestanding aerial that you can set up when you stop in remote areas.
What can you afford?
Sometimes we have to choose what we can afford rather than the choice that most closely matches our wants or needs. You need to consider both the initial cost which might include a modem, the ongoing monthly costs, and the cost of any possible add-ons like extra data for busy months or extra hardware and its installation.
Step 2: What is on offer?
Armed with a clear idea about your needs, you can now scope out what is on offer from the different providers. Check out those dedicated to mobile internet as well as mobile phone providers. At this step, ask questions but agree to nothing.
The plans and costs
What plans seem to meet your needs?
Does tying yourself to a contract give you a discount worthy of the bond?
Is there a choice of combining mobile phone/s and internet? Do the dollars stack up?
Are you looking at a joint/ family kind of arrangement rather than individual?
Can you join on to a family member’s existing plan?
Can you use the one arrangement both at home and while on the road?
Assessing a provider
How is their admin process: contracts, charging and paying? (don't assume the helpfulness of sales staff reflects what happens on their help desk, they are often a different team.)
How is their help desk: helpfulness, their hours, phone / email access? Do you care if the helpdesk is NZ-based or not?
Do they offer any discounts for a group you belong to? Netspeed offers a discount for All Points Camping members. Wireless Nation offers a discount for NZMCA members. Check any other of your group memberships for discounts.
Step 3: Consider these dimensions of difference
Service / reputation.
Coverage (where you can get a signal)
Using a phone, modem or satellite?
Speed & gigabytes.
Costs, contracts, discounts.
How long is a piece of string?
Armed with a clear idea of what you need and questions to ask, you can navigate the thickets of promotional-speak to make a good choice of internet provider.
If you are still uncertain, start with an easier, cheaper option, and change up if or when you feel a need.
Keep on asking and listening to others’ experiences with their internet provider. Keep yourself ready for change.
Check out last issue’s article on 'Getting the internet on the road' ckw.nz/internet-road.
Here are the steps:
• First: understand what you want or need.
• Second: find out what is available and what it costs.
• Third sleep on it, ask around, sleep on it again.
• Fourth: decide between using a mobile phone, a modem (or satellite) for the internet.
• Fifth: review available plans. Choose. Maybe sleep on it again.
• Sixth: Sign up.